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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Will U.S. sanctions wreck North Korea’s nuclear program?

Treasury Department announced new sanctions

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - As part of what it calls the Trump administration’s "maximum pressure" campaign designed to "isolate" North Korea from the rest of the world, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against two top North Korean officials.

Two of the most prominent officials behind North Korea's ballistic missile program were slapped with sanctions on Tuesday.

The Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, “Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the DPRK and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”

He added, “These actions follow Friday’s United Nations Security Council Resolution, which imposed strong new sanctions on North Korea further shutting down its ability to raise illicit funds.”

The two North Korean officials who were sanctioned were identified in the press release as Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, and are reportedly involved with WPK Munitions Industry Department, which oversees North Korea's ballistic missile development.

The sanctions were announced days after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted to issue increased sanctions against the country, a move quickly touted by the Trump administration. 

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, "It sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishments and isolation.”

However, the North Korean government immediately retorted and called the new sanctions an "act of war."

The North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement, “We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ‘resolution.’”

The fresh sanctions were also announced on Tuesday after Russia reiterated its offer to mediate to ease tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

The standoff between the two countries has raised fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula, which has remained in a technical state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, as opposed to a peace treaty.

Over the last year, the U.S. has repeatedly threatened that with North Korea, all options, including military ones, are on the table.

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